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US special envoy Gary Hart plans return visit to help parties rescue 'fragile' peace talks

By Lesley Houston

Published 01/10/2015

Former Senator Gary Hart
Former Senator Gary Hart

The US special envoy to Northern Ireland is preparing for a return trip to Northern Ireland to put the pressure on politicians to resolve the current impasse.

Former US senator Gary Hart revealed his plans to revisit Northern Ireland next month during a telephone conversation yesterday with the Republic's Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Mr Flanagan said there was concern in the US about the direction the Stormont talks were going. He said the senator was worried that the situation was "particularly fragile", and that he was "anxious that the logjam be broken".

Mr Hart last visited Northern Ireland in March when he warned that foreign investment could be thwarted by Stormont's crisis - which at that time was mired in disputes over welfare reform.

Stormont was then pushed to the edge of collapse after police revealed IRA links to the murder of Kevin McGuigan in August.

The 53-year-old grandfather was shot dead in Belfast in a suspected revenge attack for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard 'Jock' Davison (47) three months earlier.

The PSNI believes individual members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the murder of the Short Strand man.

Mr Flanagan, who is in Washington, said he had been encouraged by the "willingness and determination" of senior politicians on both sides to engage but the talks were at a "most critical juncture".

The Irish minister also suggested that there "may well be a role for the Americans" in a new paramilitary watchdog that is being set up to monitor the ceasefires.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers last week named a three-person panel to report on paramilitary activity in a bid to boost confidence in the political process.

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